“Could you be at the ROMUALDEZ house in Pandacan tomorrow 9am? We need your advice.”
TXT msg from Cindy R.V., +63917…, 08.15am
“OK. Anything for you, dear.”
TXT msg from Toto G., +63915…, 08.16am
30 January 2011, Friday, 09:45 a.m.
Pandacan, seemingly exotic as it sounds, is not difficult to get to. From Makati, you go through Osmena highway [ former South Superhighway ], right to President Quirino avenue, and turn right just before Nagtahan bridge [ just 20 minutes from Makati CBD with moderate traffic ]; from Quezon city and Manila you simply take Arsenio H. Lacson [ former Governor Forbes ] to Nagtahan bridge and then turn left immediately. You will pass the “Caritas” Manila office on your right. After crossing the little bridge, you will see the now white-painted, stately Romualdez residence on your right. You have arrived.
I hardly recognized the white-painted house when I came upon it. I was used to its unpainted, almost unkempt look during the post-EDSA revolution years, when the Marcos and the Romualdez families were unfashionable and the Aquino and the Cojuangco had replaced them in what most Filipinos thought was karmic tit-for-tat.
Mandoy’s daughter Eliza, an archaeologist by profession, had long been working on the structure.
Poling’s daughter Cindy and her daughter Naynay had brought in the popular and dynamic Pastor Ed, who so kindly and generously agreed to assist the family in preparing the house. Cindy’s sister Raqui and sister-in-law Evelyn were also there.
And then, 45 minutes after I came, the Beautiful One finally arrived at 10:30 a.m.. She glided effortlessly up the “escalera principal” principal stairway amid a flurry of staff and security men.
The Romualdezes had long been residents of — in fact, practically natives if you will — of Pandacan, an “arrabal” district of Manila. The Romualdez progenitor, the Sangley trader Pei Ling Po and his wife Victoria de los Angeles settled there. Their descendant, the Chinese mestizo Daniel Romualdez was a “cabeza de barangay” of the place. He married the beautiful Spanish mestiza Trinidad Lopez y Crisostomo of Tolosa, Leyte and they had three sons: Norberto, Miguel, and Vicente Orestes. Daniel met Trinidad when her silversmith father, Fray Francisco Lopez OFM, was assigned as “cura parroco” parish priest of Pandacan from his previous post in Basey, Samar.
Norberto first married Mariquita Marquez; after she passed away, he married Beatriz Buz. Norberto became Associate Justice of the Supreme Court. Miguel married Brigida Zialcita and he became Mayor of Manila. Vicente Orestes first married Juanita Acereda; after she passed away, he married the quietly beautiful “interna” Remedios Trinidad of Baliuag, Bulacan and Capiz province. Vicente Orestes Romualdez and Remedios Trinidad were the parents of former First Lady Imelda Romualdez-Marcos.
The present Romualdez “bahay-na-bato” ancestral home in Pandacan was not built by the Romualdez nor by the Lopez. It was built sometime in the early 1900s by a de Jesus gentleman who was married to a Legarda y Roces lady. To this day, the intertwined initials J, L, and R are still found in some of the carved panels on the exterior of the house. De Jesus was an inveterate gambler and philanderer who lost everything; he mortgaged his house to the bank and forthwith lost it. Col. Jacobo Zobel rushed to his good friend Manila Mayor Miguel Romualdez and told him what a good deal the forfeited de Jesus-Legarda y Roces house in Pandacan was. Miguel purchased it from the bank and it became his residence for life.
As it was nearing lunchtime…
“Naku, mga Romualdez yan, mahilig sa pagkain ang mga iyan!” Madame snapped.
“Maniwala ka Toto, noon, sinama ko silang lahat sa bapor mula Manila papuntang Leyte. Nagbaon kami ng mga hamon. Akalain mo, pagdating namin sa Leyte, ubos ang lahat ng hamon!” recalled Madame.
“Eh di para ho kayong si ‘Mrs. Payme’ sa ‘Dance-O-Rama’ na naghanap ng nawawalang hamon sa mga boarders niya?” I rejoined jokingly. Those at the table who remembered “Dance-O-Rama” laughed.
She smiled beatifically. I didn’t know if Madame Imelda Romualdez-Marcos ever watched Susan Roces’ hilarious “Dance-O-Rama”… the way most of our “Martial Law Babies” generation did…
05 January 2011, Thursday, 5:00 p.m.
Madame had hung a framed, large photograph of her ancestor, Fray Francisco Lopez OFM, above the Louis XV-style sofa in the sala. He was a handsome, albeit chubby man. Raqui, Eliza, Marivic, and I looked at it and tried to place the face… his descendants concurred that his face was “so Romualdez”…
“Looks like my brother… ” Raqui thought.
“Looks like Alfred…”
“Uhm, looks like Martin…” I opined.
“See? He thinks he looks like Martin!”
Marivic turned to Eliza… “Didn’t Daniel look like that when he was a boy? He was cute and chubby…”
“You should see Daniel now… he’s slim and he’s got abs!” Eliza recalled.
“Gee, can you imagine what Daniel could do with this house???!!!”
Tita Lulu arrived, the last of the loyal Blue Ladies, looking fresh and rested…
“Ma’am, namatay ho si Tito Pabling…” I informed Madame.
“Ay, kamamatay lang ng kapatid ko, at ng pamangkin ko…” Madame responded, then turning to Tita Lulu… “Namatay daw si Pabling! Kumusta na si Loleng?”
“Oo, kahapon ng alas kuwatro… Nasa ‘Heritage’… ” Tita Lulu replied.